Native Village
youth and education news

Volume 2 December, 2011

House of Snow
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Condensed by Native Village

IgluLast winter, a prototype of a housing structure was tested by children at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

That same iglu is now included in the NMAI's new imagiNATIONS Activity Center which opened last fall.

Laura Krafsur (Tlingit/Haida) is the NMAI's development officer. She recalls one day during the testing process:

I remember dozens of young children running at me excitedly shouting “IGLOO!!!!!!” She found it interesting that they knew what a snow house is and called. Many school-age children are aren't familiar with Native American culture or vocabulary.

Families immediately started working together in informal teams. The youngest and smaller children were inside the iglu finding the blocks. Parents and older kids were on outside finding scattered blocks and helping stack them.

Parents would explain how the igloo stayed up because of the strength of the arch. They thought it was neat that Native peoples of the Arctic figured that out. 

Language and culture weren’t problems when building the igloo. Visitors from different places speaking different languages worked together building the igloo just fine.

SBuilding the igloo 1ometimes Krafsur had to explain that it's critical to build an iglu in a spiral.  Visitors were fascinated to learn that it's impossible to build an igloo without following a spiral pattern. They also learned that Native peoples built their homes with available materials from their environment.

Many said they were impressed at how quick it was to build an igloo. They also admired how clever the Arctic peoples must have been to figure it out.

Visitors were so engaged that they had many questions. Among them:


  • Finishing the iglooHow cold does it have to be to build an igloo? Is global warming making a difference?
  • What do people use to cut the compacted snow? How heavy is are the snow blocks?
  • Are there different types of igloos? For different purposes or made by different peoples?
  • It’s neat that there’s a hole in the top for ventilation, but why don’t the fires melt the igloo?
  • Do people still build igloos? When did they start and stop?
  • What did they live in during the summertime?

How to build an igloo - A Boy Among Polar Bears - BBC
From the wonderful BBC documentary, A Boy Among Polar Bears, this video clip shows the young Inuit building his first igloo. Amazing free video clip from the BB
(The video will lead you to You Tube)



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